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Hong Kong students galvanize on social media to protest against Beijing plans | DW | 24.09.2014

Skipping class doesn't usually go down well at school or university - especially if it is the beginning of the term. However, this week thousands of students are being applauded for boycotting class as they protest the Chinese government's plans to restrict how Hong Kong's chief executive is selected. Despite being part of China, Hong Kong citizens have been able to freely elect their own leader. But that is set to change. Now people in Hong Kong feel that their freedom has been compromised. And thousands of students have taken to the streets to fight for democracy.

Many different movements are campaigning against Beijing's decision, including Occupy Central with Love and Peace (dubbed "Occupy Central") and student group "Scholarism."

Occupy Central is an alliance of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. In response to the mainland's decision to restrict the nomination process in 2017, the non-violent campaign will stage an occupation of Hong Kong's financial district on October 1 for a democratic system. Many teachers are affiliated with this campaign, according to the South Chinese Morning Post.

Scholarism is led by teenage activist Joshua Wong. As a prelude to the official Occupy Central protest, Scholarism was one of the student movements that organized the boycott and gathered some 13,000 young campaigners for a pro-democracy sit-in at the Chinese University in Hong Kong on September 22. The protest coincided with the visit of Hong Kong business tycoons to Beijing to discuss the financial hub's future with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Since Monday, both groups have been very vocal on social media. Hashtags like #HongKong, #OccupyCentral and #CCP have been used by Occupy Central.

Scholarism protesters take to the streets

The Scholarism movement, tweeting in Chinese, has been using #hkclassboycott, #Tamarpark, #CUHK and #HK. But people have been able to get most of the updates in English through student magazine "Varsity." Despite their differences, the aim of the movements is the same.

On Monday, student movement Scholarism and its leader Joshua Wong took to their keyboards to put the spotlight on democracy in Hong Kong on Facebook. They garnered some 13,000 student strikers on Monday for the class boycott.

This class boycott has been compared to the one in 2012 when students successfully protested against what they saw as attempts by their government to make their curriculum pro-China.

The student campaign is to be seen as a warm up for the demonstrations organized by the more general movement, Occupy Central, which is planning protests for October 1.

The Hong Kong government has responded to the mass protests, which it approves.

But not everyone is positive about the demonstrations. "Even if the HK executive is elected by direct votes from the Hong Kongers, they do not directly translate into better living conditions of the city itself," Victor Chan writes on the DW English Facebook page. While Hei-Teong Tong declares, "Not every single one in Hong Kong considers it as 'fake democracy.'"

But this doesn't stop teachers from backing their students. "I'm working at the [uni], and I encourage my students to participate in it," writes Steven Chan on DW English.

With the help of social networks, Internet users are able to receive regular live updates directly from the different groups on the protests in Hong Kong. Whether the groups will sway the government's decision to allow the Hong Kongese to vote in open elections in 2017 is uncertain. But one thing is sure, they are taking advantage of their democratic rights on social media to not only voice their feelings, but also to get people out onto the street.